We're delving into a fantasy world for a second, folks. Let's say you had to put together a starting lineup of NHLers right now, and only had one first name to choose from. Who do you go with? Three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie, all of whom had to play at least one NHL game this season - the combination isn't as easy as you might think.
After all, there just aren't that many Austons, Leons or Artemis in the league right now. And unfortunately, there are no goaltenders named Nikita, Sid or Evgeni. The Jonathans were looking pretty strong until they fell short by a defenseman. Perhaps the most surprising for me was the Braydens/Bradens, who didn't have enough forwards to qualify. Maybe we're too early.
But there were some fun combos I found, starting of course with No. 97.
Brown does the digging, while Garland can finish off McDavid's feeds. If the team turns it over, Hellebuyck is as good as it gets in the crease.
Another very solid entry. Getting the puck off these forwards wouldn't be easy, while the defense has mobility in spades. Even if you get a shot on net, there's not much of a chance Gibson lets it in.
That's a forward line with everything, not to mention a balanced defense pairing. Murray's two Stanley Cups don't hurt, either.
No natural centers in the group, but still a lot of talent up front. The defenders would be tough to get the puck past while Markstrom is coming off a career year.
Call me bias, but this is a pretty sweet lineup. You have three natural centers at your disposal, all of whom can play in a variety of ways. You've got tremendous minute-munching and mobility on the back end and a veteran who has seen it all in net. They do the name Ryan proud.
Call it a demographic shift, but I bet this lineup would have been better in the 1980s. You could level up a bit by including Mikaels and Mikhails.
Another very dangerous group, the Alexes (and Aleksander) bring a ton of firepower up front, a really sturdy defense and decent goaltending.
So we're into controversial territory for this last one. Marks and Marcs are interchangeable, but should a Marc-Andre be considered part of the crew? It feels like a grey area to me, but it's a pretty good lineup, if admissible.
Sub in Zadina for Chytil if you wish, but this crew offers some intrigue. Kessel's the wily vet, Forsberg's in his prime and many of the others are on the upswing.
Perhaps in 10 years this exercise will be ruled by Cales, Carters or Kaapos. In the meantime, the hockey world belongs to the Connors, Alexes, Ryans and Matts.